While most watch the Olympics for joy and excitement – some are watching for a different reason. Eyewitness News reporter Rachel Polansky spoke with an area professor who is studying gender and nationality bias in the prime time telecasts of the 2012 London Games.
One Utica College professor is watching the Olympics very closely, but not to see who wins or loses. He’s studying how networks present athletes based on their gender, nationality and ethnicity. While the amount of coverage of women’s sports has increased over the years, gender bias by television commentators has been seen in numerous sports and he anticipates it will be seen in this year’s summer games.
“I watch sports center every day, I’m a big sports fan and very rarely are you seeing coverage of women’s sports,” says Kristin St. Hilaire, Utica College Women’s Lacrosse Coach.
Utica Professor Paul MacArthur says there may be a reason for this.
“What we’re seeing is gender differences as opposed to gender stereotypes. For some reason, every single Olympic games that has been studied going back to 1994 reveal differences how genders are described by network announcers,” says MacArthur.
“They focus more on male sports. Being a softball player I see more college softball and you see professional baseball. There is professional softball but it’s not on television,” says Jessica Anson, Utica College Softball player.
MacArthur and his colleagues will study all 17 night’s of the Olympics. They are looking for how athletes are portrayed by successes and failures and which descriptions are used.
“What we did see in the 2010 games was men were more like to be descirbed as outgoing and extroverted and women were more likely to be descirbed as emotional. Whether this is an consistent pattern we’ll have to determine over a long period of time,” says MacArthur.
And MacArthur says male Olympics athletes are often the center of attention, receiving nearly 65% of the athlete mentions by the Olympic announcers.
“And I think the focus on American male athletes is because they think that American male athletes are more likely to draw the bigger ratings then American female athletes, in most cases,” says MacArthur.
MacArthur’s 2010 Winter Games studies revealed female athletes were more likely to be described as emotional, but Utica College athletics staff disagree.
“I think there’s emotion in sports despite the gender. Crying, excitement, there’s a lot of ups and downs in sports,” says St. Hilaire.
“The Yankees had won the world series and Paul O’Neil began to cry, Joe Torre, an emotional male, so it doesn’t matter the gender, the emotion is still there whether you’re a male or female,” says David Fontaine, Utica College Athletic Director.
MacArthur’s 2010 studies also revealed that male athletes were more likely to be described as succeeding due to experience, while women were described as succeeding due to courage. He doesn’t know whats in store for these 2012 games – but he hopes his new gender and nationality study will be completed by the Summer of 2013.